Opening Night College Basketball Betting Preview: Duke-Kentucky, Kansas-MSU and more
College basketball is officially back tonight. We get a major slate of games to break down this afternoon and we got some plays for opening night. I have done some deep dives on previews for a lot of these mid-major teams for my work with SB Nation, and we are going to fire off some plays.
I will be doing a college basketball slate deep dive at least once a week. This is how we are going to get started. So without further ado here are the picks, with all point spreads provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Louisiana Tech at Alabama
Spread: Alabama -11.5
Nate Oats is coming off a season for the ages, where Alabama won the SEC regular season and tournament titles and we were an overtime away from advancing to the Elite Eight. The Crimson Tide lost some key pieces from their 2020-21 lineup in Josh Primo, Herb Jones, John Petty, Alex Reese and Jordan Bruner. But they added some depth in Noah Gurley (from Furman) and freshmen Charles Bediako, J.D. Davison and Jusaun Holt via recruiting. All are four-star recruits or better.
There’s going to be a lot of rotational pieces for the Tide to figure out here. On the other hand, I project Tech to be very good. They return virtually everyone from last year’s roster, including Kenneth Lofton who is a bruising 6’7 point forward. Louisiana Tech does a great job of taking away the three ball allowing opponents to shoot just 30.7% from behind the arch. I think they have a chance to keep this one close.
The pick: Louisiana Tech +11.5
Belmont at Ohio
Spread: Belmont (-3.5)
Outside of the Champions Classic, this is my favorite game of the entire day. Casey Alexander returns everyone from last year's regular season championship roster. Grayson Murphy and Nick Muszynski are one of the the best guard and forward combinations in the mid-majors. While Ohio is trying to make their second consecutive tournament for the first time since the 1960’s.
This game also has two different clashes of styles, Ohio likes to play on the run. While Belmont will kill you in the half court. Whoever controls the pace wins this game. Ohio loses Jason Preston, but brings back Dwight Wilson and Mark Sears. We get a lot of value on Belmont, Ohio was a middle tier MAC team for most of last season. They won’t have an answer for Muszynski here. Give me the Bruins.
The pick: Belmont -3.5
Bellarmine at Purdue
Spread: Purdue (-24)
I don’t like taking big favorites on opening night, but I’m going to bite the bullet here. Purdue is a top 5 team in my mind returning Trevion Williams and Zach Edey in the front court. Bellarmine was surgical on offense last season but they ranked 335th in the country in defensive field goal percentage. Their tallest player is 6’9 and they won’t have an answer for Williams. Bellarmine will also have to replace leading scorer and rebounder Pedro Bradshaw. The Boilermakers return their entire team that got upset by North Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They won in a rout on opening night.
The pick: Purdue (-24)
UC Riverside at San Diego State
Spread: San Diego State -13
My favorite bet on the entire slate. I’m putting the Aztecs on upset alert. I did a feature on Mike Magpayo’s Highlanders, and boy did they look good in the practices I got to watch.
As for San Diego State, I’m just not high on the Aztecs this year. They lost not only Matt Mitchell but Jordan Schakel as well, who was a great three point shooter and gave them tremendous length defensively. San Diego State will still have great length with Nathan Mensah in the middle. However, the rest of the Aztecs lineup sits at 6’3, 6’3, 6’4, and 6’6. Outside of Bradley, I’m not sure they have a true second scorer.
The Highlanders finished third in the Big West last season winning 14 games in a middle of a season where their athletic department was considering shutting down the program. UCR does a great job protecting the lane and forcing teams to ultilize one side of the court. They have a 7’1 center in Callum Mcrea who can matchup with Mensah. They move the ball around the perimeter and hit three’s at the 38th most efficient rate in the country. The one weakness in the Aztecs armor is defending the three. UCR is going to absolutely exploit that tonight.
Give me the UCR to not only cover, but give me +500 on ML as well. Calling my shot, this is the upset of the day.
The pick: UC-Riverside (+13)
Chattanooga at Loyola Marymount
Spread: LMU -7
This line has moved against me and I’m not panicking. LMU is going to be a tournament team this year. You didn’t read that sentence wrong, the LMU Lions will make the NCAA tournament. They are going to be the best team outside of Gonzaga in the WCC this year. I truly believe that. Eli Scott is the WCC version of Perry Ellis. Eli Scott is the last college basketball player from the Ball area at Chino Hills High School. Scott used his Covid year to return to college basketball as a Super Senior. He averaged (18.0), rebounds (8.2), assists (3.6), and minutes per game (35.6), and here is his rank among the WCC leaders last season: 4th in PPG, 3rd in RPG, 9th in APG, and 2nd in MPG. LMU also returns everyone else of importance from a top 100 Ken Pom team.
Additionally they add Cameron Shelton from Northern Arizona who averaged 19 points per game in the Big Sky and Kwane Marble from Wyoming. The two transfers gives them scoring upside in the back court. Keli Leaupepe, another 6’6” bruiser in the front court who shot 36% from three. Demane Douglass is an athletic 6’7 wing who averaged 13 points per game. LMU is going to be potent offensively and they will boost one of the best perimeter defenses in the country.
Chattanooga is 38-21 (19-15) over the last two seasons. They have really good guard play and shooting with Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste. Most notably they added former Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa, who had a great WWE stunt in an ESPN Big Monday game a few years back. This is one of the more underrated mid-major matchups to start the season. I like LMU to start the season with an impressive win against a team that will finish in the top half of the SoCon.
The pick: LMU -7
Champions Classic: Kansas vs. Michigan State
Spread: Kansas (-4.5)
We get the classic blue blood matchup in Madison Square Garden. Kansas is a top 5 preseason team after returning 71% of their minutes and adding Remy Martin from the transfer portal. They have the better roster here. But there will be adjustments with Martin at point guard, and they will be missing all important wing Jalen Wilson to suspension.
Michigan State is a little bit of a wildcard. They lost 8 out of their last 10 to end the season and Aaron Henry, Joshua Langford and Rocket Watts are no longer there. They got transfer Tyson Walker from Northeastern and five star freshmen Max Christie. The Spartans potentially have one of the best backcourts in the country. But nothing is for certain.
Right now Kansas is theoretically class above Michigan State. The Jayhawks have a better roster. There’s a reason Kansas is favored here.
But do we know that for sure? I will take Tom Izzo as an underdog with a roster that still has a ton of upside.
The pick: Michigan State +4.5
Champions Classic: Kentucky vs Duke
Spread: Duke -3
Coach K will be opening up the college basketball season at Madison Square Garden one final time. Mike Krzyzewski will emerge from a tunnel and step onto a court equipped with a top-10 team led by one of the world's best NBA prospects.
He will meet John Calipari on the opposing sideline with an equally talented roster. Both rosters have had tons of turnover since last season. Both Duke and Kentucky missed the NCAA Tournament in a strange 2020-21 season, and each began its search for redemption on Tuesday in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Duke’s squad is led by top recruit Paolo Banchero. Duke also returns Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, and Mark Williams from last year’s roster. Coach Cal used the transfer portal bringing Kellan Grady from Davidson, Sahvir Wheeler from Georgia, and Oscar Tshwebie from West Virginia.
I already grabbed Duke -1 earlier in the week, but I will grab them at three here. Kentucky’s teams are typically better later in the season. The Kentucky group is still trying to mesh together. I think we see a sense of urgency from Coach K and Duke. I think they will get a win to start the season.
The pick: Duke (-3)
Follow Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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